Does your marketing team use approval workflow software? If not, it’s high time to consider adding it to your content workflow. A sound approval system ticks off all the boxes: it speeds up content delivery, reduces mistakes, improves communication, and keeps all the stakeholders involved.
Read on to find the best workflow software to optimize and automate the approval process and valuable tips for getting your stakeholders on board. But first, let’s go through some basics.
What is approval software?
Approval software is a tool that allows you to easily review, comment and approve content. It enables teams to collaborate and communicate efficiently, ensuring timely feedback exchange and much faster delivery.
Approval software helps to streamline work and reduce errors by building an approval workflow. A well-defined and documented workflow solution enables your team to create content faster and includes all reviewers in the process without additional bottlenecks.
5 features to look for in a content approval tool
The idea behind approval software is simple: streamline approval workflows while keeping all the necessary decision-makers in the loop.
But how do you choose the best approval workflow software for your team? Here are five features you want your tool to have.
1. Asset library
An asset library helps teams stay on brand and quickly access their digital assets, including logos, images, videos, GIFs, etc. Plus, having all your reusable elements in one place significantly speeds up the creation and approval processes.
2. Multiple approval workflow options
Some types of content need more attention than others. Customizable approval workflows provide teams with flexibility while avoiding bottlenecks in the pipeline. Some tools offer multiple options, like Planable, for instance.
3. Automated notifications
Workflow automation speeds up the process and improves communication. Automated notifications inform team members of pending approvals or remind them of an approval request that needs attention. They help teams stay on top of their workload and avoid delays.
4. Version control
Version control tracks and records every change in the content. Team members ensure they all stay on the same page working on the latest up-to-date file and can quickly revert to previous versions. It comes in handy for complex projects with many stakeholders and multiple revisions.
5. In-context collaboration
You want your best approval software to provide straightforward collaboration next to the reviewed content. With tags, comments, attachments, and notes, creators and approvers stay on the same page. In Planable, you can create internal notes for your team’s eyes only.
9 best approval workflow tools for creative teams
Marketing works on tons of content, from social media captions to images, videos, and printables. So here we gathered the nine best approval workflow software tools to fit any creative team.
1. Planable — best content approval software for bigger teams
Planable always puts collaboration first, whether it’s content creation or approval. The tool helps content creators work on all types of written content, including blog articles, newsletters, and social media posts.
Keeping easy collaboration in mind, Planable has an intuitive interface that needs minimum onboarding for less tech-savvy clients.
- Visual content calendar with multiple views to overview all planned and published content.
- Multiple approval workflow options: from none to multi-layer approval by several team members.
- Internal notes for your team that the external reviewers or clients won’t see.
- External sharing via a link that requires no signing in to view, review, and comment on posts.
Planable offers flexible pricing starting at $11 per month based on the number of users, workplaces, and features. The platform also has a free plan that includes 50 scheduled posts.
Planable has no built-in analytics and reports.
Planable is perfect for creating custom approval workflows and automating them. With flexible pricing, visual content presentation, and extensive collaborative features, Planable fits any marketing team like a glove.
2. ProofHub — client approval software with fast communication
ProofHub is an online project management and collaboration tool that helps teams streamline their general workflows and stay organized. Besides approval functionality, it offers other tools to improve communication and simplify project management.
- Task management system with boards and project templates to create, assign, and manage tasks, set deadlines, and track progress in real-time.
- Essential online proofing that includes commenting, resolving the comments, and final approval.
- Various roles and permissions and an option to share the proofing link with external stakeholders.
ProofHub paid plans start at $45/month.
The cheapest plan includes the minimum set of features: proofing, file versioning, notes, etc. To use workflows, custom roles, and reports, users have to upgrade.
ProofHub is a complex project management solution with basic approval workflows. It suits those looking for a combination of task management and approval software.
3. Filestage — creative review software for smaller teams
Filestage is an approval software that allows teams to set up an approval workflow on the spot. It’s a centralized platform where teams can review and provide feedback on videos, images, text docs, and PDF files.
- On-file collaboration to leave comments directly on the file, reply to them, and track changes in real-time.
- Native integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Asana.
- Version control and history to track progress and stay on the same page.
Filestage has a free version for small teams and freelancers and three paid plans starting from $49/month.
Automated email notifications are lagging.
Filestage helps various marketing teams build approval workflows and speed up approvals.
4. Approval Studio — marketing approval software with visual proofing
Approval Studio is a design-oriented approval workflow software with many features supporting visual proofing. It has integrations with Adobe Creative Cloud to ease the creative team’s everyday work and reduce the number of “final” file versions.
- Online proofing tools: side-by-side comparison, version control, and markup to review and approve creative assets.
- Marketing workflow management features to create and customize workflows for the team and track progress at each step of the approval process.
- Automatic reminders for a new pending approval, task, or comment.
Approval Studio’s four paid plans start at $45 per month.
Few integration options.
Approval Studio is a remarkable tool for design teams who can benefit from its review instruments, visual comparison, and smooth approval workflow.
5. Wipster — video review and approval software
Wipster helps video teams deliver content faster and easily fly through complicated marketing approval processes. Besides proofing, the platform publishes the ready-to-go and approved content to integrated platforms like Vimeo, Wistia, and others.
- Video review with frame-by-frame commenting, side-by-side comparison, version control, and comments turning into tasks.
- Real-time collaboration with team members and external stakeholders, including automated notifications.
- A review panel extension for Premiere Pro and After Effects to keep feedback close while implementing changes.
The platform bills per user and set of features. The paid plans begin at $19.95 per user per month, and Wipster also has a free version.
Creators can only share links to individual videos, which takes more time.
Wipster works for video creators best. It has many integrations to avoid time-consuming rendering and speed up the video review process.
6. Celum — approval workflow solution perfect for Kanban devotees
Celum covers the whole content supply chain and combines it with the Kanban methodology. The approval system supports documents, videos, and images. Celum concentrates on workflow automation using statuses and ad-hoc pipelines for different projects.
- Customizable approval workflow with multiple roles, markdown tools, version comparison, and Kanban-style stages.
- Content sandbox to create and collaborate on content detached from the central asset library.
- Automated workflow templates for setting due dates, assigning tasks, and sending approval requests.
Celum has one paid plan for $24.90 per month per user.
Celum’s pricing lacks flexibility with only one defined plan.
Celum is a workflow automation software for building customizable content pipelines. It’s a good fit for a team of 10+ people creating an automated approval workflow.
7. GoVisually — efficient creative workflow software for review & approval
GoVisually is an approval management software for visual feedback on creative pieces. The platform supports PDFs, designs, and video content. It’s a handy and straightforward tool that makes content approval easy by keeping all the efforts in one place.
- Content review tools: side-by-side view, targeted visual annotations, time-coded comments for the videos.
- Commenting history and instant statuses to track approvals: from in-review to need-changes to approved.
- External sharing with an unlimited number of users.
GoVisually paid plans start at $20/month for solo creators and $30/month for teams.
Users mention excessive email notifications and a steeper learning curve for clients.
GoVisually is a minimalistic yet efficient tool for teams working on visual projects.
8. Aproove — comprehensive workflow automation tool with approval features
Aproove is a full-scale work management software. Aproove’s proof tool supports over 180 file types, and its workflows are straightforward: with one multi-tool for annotations, they require little onboarding.
- Workflow automation features: your colleagues are tasked and notified automatically.
- Personal to-do lists, approval checklists, and proof statuses to keep the reviewers on track.
- Annotation flow management to divide internal and external reviewers.
The Aproove Classic plan costs $750 per month.
The tool is expensive for most small to medium businesses.
Aproove is an enterprise-class online proofing tool with vast customization options that would suit big teams with generous budgets.
9. ReviewStudio — approval workflow system with intuitive UX
ReviewStudio enables creative teams to review and collaborate on over 100 media formats, including PDFs, images, videos, and docs. This approval workflow software has intuitive UX and offers automated workflows for faster delivery.
- Project management: tasks made from comments, multiple task statuses, and a unified dashboard.
- Approval automation: users can create approval templates with set stages and approvers.
- Several approval statuses: approve, approve with changes, or revision required.
The tool has four paid plans starting at $20/month.
The mobile version is less user-friendly than the desktop one.
ReviewStudio has extensive functionality for reviewing creative content and suits design teams who want to get targeted feedback fast.
How to sway stakeholders to use the approval software?
Say, a digital marketing agency is creating a social media campaign for a client. The campaign has many posts, each with its caption, visual, and focus.
The approval process for every post includes a) the agency’s team member, b) the client’s team member, and c) one of the stakeholders. No post goes live without all of them giving it a go.
Imagine the number of emails and approval requests! In such chaos, missing a deadline (and your sanity!) is easy. But, the right approval software saves the day for clients and creators, making the approval processes swift and accurate.
The agency can easily share the posts with all stakeholders and gather feedback and approvals in one place. Built-in notifications, approval checklist templates, and transparent communication enable teams to track approvals and stay updated on the content status.
So, how do you convert your stakeholders to using an approval workflow software? Here are some tips.
1. Communicate the value of using the approval software
Explain the benefits of using the approval software to your clients. Present your stakeholders with two scenarios:
- One where your team constantly nags stakeholders with multiple emails and chats, including them in the content creation process.
- And another one, where you have a collaboration tool that automatically sets approval tasks or sends updates once in a while to keep stakeholders in the loop.
The second scenario requires much less time from the stakeholder: it’s straightforward, easy, and efficient. Eventually, what matters for the business is that approval workflow software tools significantly improve productivity and save time.
2. Make sure the stakeholder knows how to use the approval software
Invest some extra time into onboarding your clients: schedule a video call where you’ll break down the approval process into actionable steps. Choose an approval tool with a straightforward and user-friendly interface so that even the least tech-savvy stakeholders will find it easy to use.
Remember to be patient with your approvers: some people catch on faster than others. Guide them through every approval step and ensure they understand the workflow.
Clear instructions will save you time in the future and reassure stakeholders that approval workflow automation is not as scary as it might feel at first.
3. Lead the conversation in the early days
When introducing your approval workflow software to the stakeholders, take the lead for the first couple of times. If you want their approval on a press release, highlight some of the parts you’d like them to pay extra attention to. Leave a few comments as anchors so that your reviewers answer your questions, rather than face a plain wall of text.
Taking the lead will help stakeholders get accustomed to the software and document approval workflow. They’ll get used to the tool and its functionality, and their first instinct will be to add comments and communicate with your team through the platform.
4. Keep it fun to engage them
Sending a GIF with a cat giving thumbs up instead of writing “ok” next to the reworked design is faster, more visual, and more pleasant.
Many platforms make it fun to provide feedback, and your team should take advantage of it to sway stakeholders to the approval workflow software side. Planable, for instance, allows users to add emojis, GIFs, and images to the comments, making document reviewing and approving more interactive.
Besides, with more than just dry comments, stakeholders are more likely to highlight what they like in your content instead of only concentrating on fixes and tweaks.
5. Once they get it, let them lead
Give stakeholders the reins when they get a hold of the software and the approval process. It empowers them to take ownership of the process, and increases engagement. Combined with clever onboarding and a well-documented approval workflow, it makes sign-offs easier. Stakeholders are more likely to prioritize their feedback when in control.
You can still support them with an approval checklist or provide all the necessary details in the comments to add context. It will ensure faster approvals.
Are you ready to transform your approval workflow? Approval software aids marketing, design, and social media teams in delivering content faster and smoother, and benefits both creators and stakeholders.